Constitutional unity elusive

| 21/09/2008

(CNS): With only a week to go before the Foreign Commonwealth Office negotiating team arrives from London to begin talks with the Cayman Islands regarding the revision of its constitution, the government and opposition are still at odds. While McKeeva Bush has proposed a public debate between the UDP, the government and the invited NGOs before the London talks start, Kurt Tibbetts has said there can be no debate until the country knows what the opposition proposes.

Speaking at the media briefing on 18 September, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the country still found itself without the benefit of knowing what the opposition proposed, only a few days before talks with the UK, which are due to start on Monday, 29 September, and no closer to the united front he has said he wants to present.

“The Leader of the Opposition has found every excuse possible, and in so doing continually plays the blame game in his obvious attempt to delay the process,” said Tibbetts. “He has now proposed a three-day debate in the Legislative Assembly, as a public hearing, beginning on Monday.”

Tibbetts said that while the government agreed that this may be necessary to resolve important differences between the government’s revised proposals and the opposition’s proposals, he said the opposition had failed to tell the country what they were actually proposing.

“When we were engaged in the process in 2002, before the 2003 draft constitution was completed by London after our negotiations, the PPM, as the opposition, prepared and produced our position paper for all to see, and we readily agreed to a summit with the UDP government in order to close the gaps before the negotiations started.  Both the government and the opposition at the time had the benefit before the summit of comparing each other’s proposals before sensible dialogue ensued,” added Tibbetts.

“Before any sensible meeting can be held with the opposition, they need to tell the country what they are proposing. When the opposition has done that, the government can study their proposals, take advice, and consider making adjustments to our published revised proposals. Also, the public can then at least give serious thought to the opposition’s proposals, and compare them with ours.”

The LoGB said the clock continues to tick, and it would be unfortunate if all the members of the Cayman negotiating team had not met to see if they could agree on a common approach before the London delegation arrived.

“We have thus far met with three of the four NGO’s who will be participating in the talks.  These discussions have all been constructive, and each instance has been based on prepared comments and proposals.  But we are all hampered by not knowing what the opposition proposes – or what are their reasons for objecting to the Revised Proposals published by the government.”

Tibbetts said the country had been very patient with the opposition, but now, as the talks date is imminent, it is essential for it to say what it proposes.

“If the opposition does not do so, even its strongest supporters will have to acknowledge that the opposition is playing political games, which are seriously detrimental to the country’s interests. It is absolutely imperative that the Cayman team — government, opposition and NGOs — present as unified a position as possible to the UK at these important talks.  To do otherwise is to do a disservice to the people of these islands,” he added.

Minister Alden McLaughlin said that Bush’s idea of a public debate was simply so he could grandstand, and that the opposition leader was misleading the public by not defining clearly his position on the constitution and spelling out exactly what he genuinely disagreed with on the government’s proposals.

Bush has persistently said he believes it is what the people want that counts and not the politicians, and although the UDP has created a discussion paper, they were not given the necessary financing to establish the true feeling of the people of Cayman. Although the government believes from the previous attempts at constitutional modernisation that the government and the opposition are not so far apart in their opinion, Bush has in recent months said he disagrees with a number of the PPM’s constitutional proposals, including the changes in the balance of power between the elected members of government and the Governor, as well as the idea of having a Bill of Rights enshrined in the constitution rather than as separate legislation.

In recent public meetings Bush has accused the government of forcing its constitutional proposals on the people of Cayman before they are ready and of seeking to power-grab. In response, the government has accused Bush of playing games and derailing the process.



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  1. Anonymous says:

    Why would goverment not want to have a debate on the floor of the LA? It would seem a perfect place to finally hear discussion from all angles. Seems that its LGB thats playing the games on this one.